During the younger years of our lives, we all work summer jobs that we will either love or hate. You may end up cleaning dishes and toilets, or you may end up at a waterpark or as a lifeguard, ensuring that kids can swim safely. Eventually and unfortunately, we all have to grow up and work “real” jobs that we probably wouldn’t choose, if not for the money and benefits. I’m sure we all wish that we could go back to those summer jobs, but few of us get to. If you did get to, would you really want to? Weighing all the pros and cons, would it be the smartest choice?
Leigh (Kristen Bell) is a reporter living in New York who seems to have it all going for her. She graduated top of her class in high school and is now working in the Big Apple. As her thirtieth birthday approaches, Leigh begins to worry if she’s done enough with her life and a troubling story that she is investigating only makes her feel worse. Her solution is to return to her old life and spend time in the place that she loved. She will reunite with her best-friends Mel (Mamie Gummer) and Todd (Martin Starr) and will even get her old job as the community pool lifeguard back. Sounds picture perfect, right?
During her time as a lifeguard, Leigh meets Little Jason (David Lambert), Matt (Alex Shaffer) and Lumpy (Paulie Litt), three sixteen year-olds who can’t wait to leave home. As Leigh and her friends end up spending more time with the teenagers, they get back into smoking weed and drinking. Tensions mount when Leigh and Little Jason spend more time together, eventually leading to their hooking up and becoming a couple… sort of… As the summer winds down, what’s to become of the “beloved” couple and how will both parties go back to normality after such and obscure summer?
I’ve already seen one film about an older woman getting with a younger man (Adore), but this time it was different. This is a grown, almost thirty-year-old woman, who is engaging in a relationship with a sixteen-year-old kid. Little Jason (which is a terrible name) has probably just hit puberty and now he’s dating an older woman. In what reasonable world does that scenario make any logical sense? It doesn’t! Not unless the story explains the parameters of the relationship and explores the consequences of it as well.
Like Adore, The Lifeguard fails to address the ramifications of a relationship between a younger “man” and an older woman. Not once, did Bell’s character ever think about what she was doing. There was never a voice in the back of her head saying “this kid left middle school about two years ago”. Of course Little Jason is going to like it! He’s a teenage boy with hormones and he’s with Kristen Bell! He’s “King of the World” as far as anyone else is concerned. As for Bell, she’s a creepy old cougar who doesn’t think twice about her awful actions.
This has to be one of the most unbelievable movies of the year. From Bell’s actions to the actions of her friends, the movie is just odd and doesn’t give you much to work with. Gummer’s character is the uptight Principal of the school that the teenage boys attend and Starr’s character is gay and he’s made out to be lonely and in need of someone to love. The dialog is cheesy and nothing seems real. What’s worse than watching a film that you can’t connect with?
Director Liz W. Garcia has written for many T.V. shows and The Lifeguard is her first try at making a feature film. While I do applaud her efforts and the fact that she’s a woman directing and writing her own film, The Lifeguard could have been a million times better. The sappy story and the unrealistic characters are too much to get past. I’m always one to support independent films and female directors, so I would like to see more from Garcia and I’d like to see her grow as a writer/director. There are some good aspects to The Lifeguard, but the bad outweighs the good this time.
Had I not seen The Lifeguard, my life may have been better off. While I always do enjoy Kristen Bell and seeing Martin Starr in a non-Judd Apatow movie surprised me in a good way, there wasn’t too much else to enjoy. If watching older women get with younger men is your thing, then you may like this movie after all. If not, you might want to avoid this film. It doesn’t explore the negative consequences of the odd love affair and to be honest, that may have made me like the film more. Alas, they didn’t and the film suffers for that.
The Lifeguard Trailer